My story

My name is Leonie and I live in Sydney, Australia.

I’m a mother, sister, daughter and wife and my ultimate reason for starting this blog is to share my story. It’s important to remember that what ever life throws at you, remain positive and keep your chin up.

I’m not going to tell you my whole life story, but we will start at about 4 years ago.

Like many women throughout the world I was diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine screening. Early stage, locally excised and treated with radiotherapy and 5 years worth of aromatase inhibitor therapy. I consider myself lucky to have caught it early, I remain positive.

The medical profession looked after the treatment of the disease in a narrow sense however couldn’t provide the insights into a holistic overview of maintaining my health, in particular the critical importance of good nutrition and exercise. I found the information online to be confusing and at times contradictory. To find some answers to my nutritional questions, I decided to sign up for a 3 year degree in Nutritional Medicine and Dietetics. Although at times stressful, getting through the course content (biology and chemistry were hard), assignments and clinic consultations, it was the most positive experience for me. I found it stimulating and mixing with mostly young students looking for careers as Nutritionists provided lots of interesting discussions.

Did come out of the course with all the answers? NO…. however it allowed me to think for myself and I ended up with a lot of wonderful resource material and an understanding of what makes up a healthy diet. And of course qualifications allowing me to practice as a Clinical Nutritionist.

On the exercise front, lots of studies have shown that exercise (including weights) can benefit cancer sufferers both during and post treatment. My oncologist and her husband initiated a gym solely for people diagnosed with cancer, patients/attendees work with exercise physiologists who design individual programs for each person.

At my first attendance at the gym, we decided on goals.

Goal 1 – increase bone density. Unfortunately the side effect of aromatase inhibitor treatment is a deficiency in oestrogen which increases the risk of osteoporosis. My DXA scans confirmed this to be the case in my lumber spine and hips.

Goal 2 – the ability to do a chin-up. Seemed like a good idea. The exercise physiologist was excited, none of his patients had thought of this. A meaty goal indeed.

So, it took me a year to be able to do an unassisted chin-up. I was at the gym 3 times per week, lots of different programs over the year targeting bone density, overall muscular strength and specific muscles related to the ultimate goal of a chin-up.

Over time other women, young and old, added chin-ups to their goals, it was great that I inspired them to challenge their bodies and ultimately increase their strength. If I can provide a positive role model at the gym then goal number 3 was to expand my audience – hence this blog.

I also take inspiration from Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She was in amazing shape for this film role and worked out hard to portray a woman of incredible fitness, strength and courage – embodied by the scene where she was performing chin-ups on her up-turned bed-frame.

I think that we should all take inspiration from women of strength for our approach to life, mentally and physically.

Set your goals, they might be low at first however your body wants to be fit and you will be amazed at how quickly it will respond. Always work to within your capacity and I recommend you see an exercise physiologist to design a program, be realistic with your goals – remember the goal posts can be moved. Hopefully higher !